Appel: Yankee icon Jeter channeling Mantle’s farewell season

From SABR member Marty Appel at The National Pastime Museum on June 2, 2014:

Watching Derek Jeter’s final season unfold brings both joy and sadness for this lifelong Yankee observer and one-time club employee. The joy is in celebrating the 20 years of memories, and the sadness is, of course, that it is coming to a close.

I am taken back to 1968, which was Mickey Mantle’s final season. There are similarities, and there are differences. The big difference was that no one knew for sure, including Mickey, that it would be his final season. He did not retire until spring training of 1969. So there were no ceremonies staged by opposing clubs, no grand sendoffs from fans.

But there were signs.

It was my first year working for the team, and my job was answering his fan mail. So I often found myself in his presence “reviewing important mail,” of which there was none. But I always managed to find a few to get me some face time with him.

One day in August, as I was sitting by his side, he took out a new pair of spikes and tossed the old pair into a garbage pail about 10 feet away. (What was I thinking in not retrieving them?)

“This will be my last pair,” he said, as he twisted and folded them to soften them up. I didn’t really know what to make of the statement, since I had no idea how long a pair lasted. I couldn’t immediately conclude that he was telegraphing his impending retirement. How did I know they wouldn’t last into 1969?

The 1968 season was very lonely for Mickey, and I suspect that is where the great similarity lay. “Who are these guys?” he must have thought, as he looked around the clubhouse and saw Ruben Amaro, Steve Whitaker, Andy Kosco, Joe Verbanic, Dooley Womack, and even a rookie third baseman named Bobby Cox. (Who would have guessed that there were two future Hall of Famers in that clubhouse—Mantle and Cox!)

Read the full article here:

Originally published: June 2, 2014. Last Updated: June 2, 2014.